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Saqqara

The Places

What
Main Necropolis for the Pharaohs, their Royal Families and the Nobles, who used Memphis as their Capital City tended to be buried. 17 Pharaohs built at Saqqara; Nobles and Officials added their own monuments and it remained in use for over 3,000 years

Where
With Giza and Dahshur, Saqqara makes up the entire Memphite Necropolis Area. Located 30km south of Cairo and opposite the ancient Capital of Memphis

When
First Pyramid was constructed c2650BC – 2nd Dynasty (2890–2686BC) to the Greco-Roman Period

Why
To ensure that the Pharaohs are not forgotten

History

Early Dynastic Period   

During the First Dynasty, Pharaohs were buried at Abydos but for convenience and ease this changed to Saqqara in the Second Dynasty. The most famous of these Funerary Monument from this period is the Funerary Complex and Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser which was conceived and erected by Royal Architect, Imhotep.

Buried Pyramid

Who: Pharaoh Sekhemkhet

What: Unfinished Step Pyramid

When: Approx. 2645 BC during the 3rd Dynasty

The Great Enclosure

What: 10m high Rectangular Walled enclosure which has massive walls which are 15m wide

Who: Thought to be Pharaoh Khasekhemwy of the 2nd Dynasty

Tomb B

What: An Underground Gallery; beneath the Funeral Passage of Pharaoh Unas’ Necropolis

Who: Either for Pharaoh Hotepsekhemwy or Pharaoh Nebra of 2nd Dynasty

Tomb of Pharaoh Nynetjer

What: An Underground Gallery Tomb for Pharaoh Nynetjer and with a similar architectural outlook as Tomb B. Later reused as a burial for a woman’s coffin from the Ramesside Period

When: 2nd Dynasty

Step Pyramid of Djoser

What: The central building of the vast Mortuary Complex for Pharaoh Djoser

When: 3rd Dynasty

Who: Built for Pharaoh Djoser by his Royal Architect, Imhotep

Old Kingdom Period

Saqqara had a break from being the main Necropolis but was back to being the main burial area in the 5th and 6th Dynasties. The Pyramids of this era were lesser constructions and have not led to the best preservation. Of this period, Pharaoh Unas remains one of the better known as he embellished the interior of his Pyramid with the Pyramid Texts. An assemblage of private Noble Tombs and Mastabas are dotted around the Pyramid of their Pharaoh, especially Pharaoh Unas and Pharaoh Teti.

Mastaba of Pharaoh Shepseskaf

What: Funerary Complex with the central construction of the Stepped Mastaba

Who: Last Pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty

Size: 18m High with a Base of 99.6m by 74.4m

Material: Tura Limestone, Red Sandstone and Pink Granite

Pyramid of Pharaoh Userkaf

What: True sided Pyramid and Mortuary Complex with a Mortuary Temple, Offering Chapel and a Cult Pyramid with reciprocal buildings for Pharaoh’s Chief Royal Wife, Queen Neferhetepes

When: 2490BC during the 5th Dynasty

Size: 49m high, with a base of 73.5m

Pyramid of Djedkare

What: True sided Pyramid and Mortuary Complex with a Mortuary Temple, Valley Temple, a Cult Pyramid and a partially built Causeway; with reciprocal buildings for Pharaoh’s Chief Royal Wife, Queen Setibhor

When: 5th Dynasty

Size: 52.5m high – now 24m high, with a base of 78.75m

Mastaba Tomb of Khnumhotep & Niankhkhnum

Who: Royal Servants who had the title of Overseer of the Manicurists in the Palace of Pharaoh Nyuserre Ini

When: Pharaoh Nyuserre Ini was from the 5th Dynasty

Pyramid of Pharaoh Unas

What: Smallest Old Kingdom Pyramid but is highly significant due to the Pharaoh inscribing the Pyramid texts on its interior. There was a whole complex including a Causeway and a Valley Temple

When: 5th Dynasty

Size: Height of 43m and a base of 157.75m

Type: Smooth sided

Pyramid of Pharaoh Menkauhor

What: The small Pyramid of Pharaoh Menkauhor which enjoyed a Funerary Cult for up to 150 year after his death

When: 5th Dynasty

Also known: The Headless Pyramid or the Pyramid of Lepsius XXIX

Pyramid Complex of Pharaoh Teti

What: Pyramid at the centre of a Complex including; a satellite Pyramid, 2 Pyramids for his Queens, Funerary Temple and Cult structures. 2nd Pyramid known to have Pyramid Texts inscribed inside

When: 6th Dynasty

Pyramid of Pharaoh Khendjer

What: A Funerary Complex for the Pharaoh including a Mortuary Temple, 2 enclosure Walls, a second smaller Pyramid and a Chapel

When: 13th Dynasty

 

Pyramid of Pharaoh Pepi I

What: A Funerary Complex for the Pharaoh which included a Valley Temple, Causeway, Mortuary Temple, Pyramid Town and a further 10 minor Pyramids

When: 6th Dynasty

Architect: Inenek-Inti

Serapeum

What: The burial place of the Sacred Apis Bulls, the animal form of the God Ptah; appears to have held 25 mummified bulls

When: 18th Dynasty to 30th Dynasty

Who: Earliest found burials appear to be from reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III

Middle Kingdom Period and Second Intermediate Period

As Memphis was not the Capital City during this period there weren’t from the Royals. There were only a few private monuments erected, and an unknown resident’s pyramid erected during the Second Intermediate Period.

 

New Kingdom Period

Memphis regained its status as Capital City of Egypt and from the 18th Dynasty many Nobles and Officials used Saqqara as their burial place. Pharaoh Horemheb, while still a General in the Egyptian Army, built himself a large tomb in Saqqara but subsequently reigned and so was entombed in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes.

Pharaoh Ramses II’s son, Prince Khaemwaset, was charged with making repairs to neglected Tombs, Pyramids, Mastabas and other monuments during his father’s reign. Including the Pyramid of Unas and enlarging the Serapeum.

 

Late Period

As Pharaohs used the Nile Delta for their Capital Cities, Saqqara remained a popular destination for Nobles to be buried. Cult Centres were also more in demand and as such the Necropolis was fairly populated with burial locations for mummified animals who had been offered to the deities as religious offerings. These included:

  • Ibis Birds
  • Dogs
  • Baboons
  • Cats
  • Falcons

The Tombs included:

  • Shaft Tombs of Officials from the Late Period
  • Philosopher Circle of the Ptolemaic Period
  • Coptic Monasteries
  • Erection of the larger part of the Serapeum from the Ptolemaic Period

Also:

  • First Intermediate Period: Pyramid of King Ibi
  • New Kingdom Period: Tombs of the Viziers Neferrenpet and Aperel; the Artist Thutmose; the Wet nurse of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, named Maia; empty Tomb of later Pharaoh Horemheb; Tombs of Maya and Merit the married couple who were prominent during the reigns of the Pharaohs Tutankhamun, Ay and Horemheb


More and more is being located as Saqqara continues to be excavated